Killing It Softly: A Digital Horror Fiction Anthology of Short Stories (The Best by Women in Horror (Volume 1))
Killing it Softly – The Best by Women in Horror – Suzie Lockhart and Digital Horror Fiction are thrilled to present 32 chilling tales of terror from some of the best authors in horror. Killing It Softly includes stories from New York Times best selling authors Nancy Holder and Elaine Cunningham, together with more shocking short nightmares from the finest award winning female writers in the genre. Your heart won’t stop pounding as you dig into the pages of this book; from the moment you immerse yourself in the first tale, about a women waking to find herself inside a coffin, buried alive, until the last, a coming of age story about a sixteen-year-old’s journey of self-discovery amidst all hell breaking loose. You’ll find your proof that women can, indeed, do a wicked dance between science fiction and horror as they penetrate your darkest thoughts, to bring forth stories promising to leave you with a lingering anxiety you can’t seem to shake. Any romantic notions of vampires will be crushed, and dark and twisted plots will confirm definitively that females can even write about zombies. We dare you to read stories that will leave you deeply disturbed, and some that will slice into your very soul. It wouldn’t be horror if there wasn’t an ode to Edgar Allen Poe…we have two masterfully written tales. There are stories off the odd and unusual, stories that take a perilous dive into worlds of disturbing shadows, and there’s even an exorcism—in a tale that daringly addresses the heartbreaking disease that is alcoholism. Enter at your own risk…
My story All of a Heap is featured. “All of a Heap” is the story of Gus, a man trying to save his young daughter Allie from the heartbreak of losing her mother to a deadly plague. His attempt to bypass roadblocks to get her help leads them into a suburban neighborhood where stragglers have set their own survival rules. What price will Gus have to pay for his daughter’s safety?
Happy Halloween reading!
The happily ever after is never the end. The curtain doesn’t fall once love is recognized or evil is vanquished. Credits don’t roll once the giant is slain or the big bad wolf is boiled alive. Wicked stepsisters, malevolent rulers, and hideous creatures still have lives after their sinister roles play out; heroes, lovers, and dreamers often find their victories lead to more troubles.
Within these pages are more than seventy continuations, retellings, and eldritch stories that explore the dark forests, magical castles, and hideous creatures After the Happily Ever After.
Here is the awesome cover for the upcoming After the Happily Ever After (AHEA) anthology by Transmundane Press, to be released December 15. This massive anthology transforms well-known fables into darker, more fantastical tales. I’m quite pleased that my story “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” has been selected to be part of this anthology. The Wolf and three little (bullying) pigs feature in my fable transformation merging Disney and Grimm worlds. While it’s a fantasy story, the horror writer in me couldn’t help but include a Grimm ending. Here is a teaser:
A thin spray squirted out of the speaker, covering Wolf in a malodorous mist.
“Arrgh, pigsty stink.” He moved out of sight of the camera and spat.
“I gave you fair warning. Leave before we take it up a notch.”
“Little pig, little pig, please let me in.”
“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.” Laugher burst out of the speakers, Fifer and Fiddler’s laughter joining their brother’s.
Three for one. Wolf licked his snout. He grimaced and spat, the taste of pigsty flaring anew in his mouth.
“That’s enough. Release Mr. D., or I will tear your house down.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Fifer said. “You should enlist reinforcements stronger and scarier than you.”
“Yeah, like a poodle,” one of the brothers said.
Wolf nuzzled the camera. “I am going to tear this house down even if I have to huff and puff.”
“Hard to do with emphysema, Old Man,” Practical said.
“Tra la la la la la,” the brothers chanted.
“We’ll see what you have to say when I pig out on bacon tonight.”
Check out Kickstarter for some cool rewards relating to this project.
“Of Holes and Craters” is the story of Grace, a teenager forced to live among a school prison full of Teddys, InfecTED victims of a devastating plague in a world where authorities elect to believe the InfecTED will return to “normal” if you retrain them just enough.
B12, as Grace is known in the reformatorium, might be short on fingers, but there is no limit to her imagination. Cleverness. Ingenuity. Will she find a way to break out of captivity without collecting an extra hole in the head?
My short story “Of Holes and Craters” is now available as a book from Amazon. I can’t express how thrilling it was to receive an email from Digital Fiction Publishing advising me the story was being published on its own and had earned its own eerily creepy cover design, perfectly matching the story.
The story has also found a place in the anthology “Largely Deceased”, a collection of ten horror tales meant to keep you up at night. (And I was also pleased to see my name featured on the anthology cover!)
I have a number of projects coming to fruition, and I am pleased to finally be able to share some more detail about what is coming up.
Anthology: Paying the Ferryman
Story: Maze Walker
Available: October 20, 2015
A virtual book launch party will take place on Facebook the evening of October 20 to celebrate the launch of “Paying the Ferryman”, and offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the anthology. It will be my first such experience and I’m looking forward to the event to mingle with the contributing authors and supporters. It will be a great event and you’re invited to join the fun.
Paying the Ferryman is a collection of stories that start after the main character has died. My contribution is “Maze Walker”, where a man is condemned to walk ad vitam aeternam, all the while being tortured by unseen Ferrymen. Hold on to your hat – and any organs you consider important – as you enjoy a new kind of Ferryman’s maze of torment. Death is just the beginning. Are you ready to pay?
Anthology: The Corpse Candle and other Nightmares Horror Anthology
Story: Of Holes and Craters
Available: Halloween 2015
“Of Holes and Craters” is the story of Grace, a teenager forced to live among a prison full of Teddys, InfecTED victims of a devastating plague. B12, as she is known in the reformatorium, might be short on fingers, but there is no limit to her imagination. Cleverness. Ingenuity. Will she ever find a way to break out without collecting an extra hole in the head? Find out on Halloween 2015.
Anthology: Plague: Ruination
Stories: The Wolf Strain & Ark of the Lonesome
Available: Winter 2015-16
Plague: Ruination is a part of the Plague series created by editor and author Jeremiah Donaldson (ephiroll.com). My story “All of a Heap” appeared in the second book, Plague: Aftermath. Through social media, I had the opportunity to connect with another contributor, Lyndsey Shir-McDermott-Pour . When the call for Ruination came out, Lynds and I decided to draw from Jeremiah’s original novel, and collaborate on a story to show what would happen in the next few days of his Plague, focusing on what could be Patient Zero’s storyline. Lynds took on the first stage for what I like to refer to as Family Zero, writing the story of what happens while they are still in Africa, and my story “The Wolf Strain” picks up when they land in Paris, bringing that storyline to the end of a very captivating story arc.
I also have a second story in the anthology, a stand-along piece called “Ark of the Lonesome”, which follows other characters affected by the same Plague. As family is a big part of our collaborative project detailed above, I thought it would be interesting to explore characters at the other end of the spectrum, individuals with no one else in the world. They too are ruined, but their journey through the Plague might lead them to a better life.
I’m looking forward to those stories being available and will provide links when the anthologies become available. In the meantime, check out “Plague: Aftermath”, now available on Amazon: Canada US, and “Paying the Ferryman”, now available (before official release!) in the US in paperback.
“Paying the Ferryman” and my story “Maze Walker” will be released in October 2015. Here are more details.
Editor Margaret L. Colton of Charon Coin Press is happy to announce not only the authors for Paying the Ferryman anthology, but also the foreword done by Hal Bodner. As the release time draws nearer for Paying the Ferryman—October 2015—we grow more excited with the anticipation of sharing this anthology.
Hal Bodner is the author of the best-selling horror comedy, BITE CLUB and a Bram Stoker Award nominee in 2015 for his short story, HOT TUB. Bodner is an active member of the horror writers’ community and a past trustee of the Horror Writer’s Association. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard and have him lend his voice to the foreword for Paying the Ferryman.
Paying the Ferryman is an original anthology from Charon Coin Press. What makes the stories in Paying the Ferryman unique is the fact that the main character is dead and the stories take…
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Submissions by the numbers – or not
I made four short story submissions in March, doubling my goal of 2 per month. Of course when I look back to the beginning of the year, I’m 4/6, or 4/8 including April so numbers continue to dampen any moment of celebration I might have.
Focusing on the submissions themselves, one story was rejected within 24 hours, two await a response, while Arctic Marauder made it through the first level of slush and has moved up the ranks for review by a senior editor. It’s not yet an acceptance but makes me feel pretty good.
My real-life horror story
I use my daily walks to work out plot issues and mentally outline stories as I circle a 5K section of the Rideau Canal. I’ve been walking the same section for years and could pretty much do it blind if not for other pedestrians, runners, cyclists, strollers, pets and gaping holes peppering the East side that open all the way down into canal water, threatening the loss of a lower limb. Other than for those life-threatening dangers, I can pay minimal attention to my surroundings and focus on stories.
Usually around this time of the year, and for several weeks, I need to change my route as a family of crows have taken to nesting on the Pretoria bridge and mommy crow attacks me every time, approaching from a blind spot and holds on to my cap for dear life with her prehistoric claws as she pecks the hell out of my head until I run – wildly screaming and swinging – out of the kill zone. I’ve never seen others attacked so I’m not sure if it’s to protect her young or a protest against my fashion sense, but the experience is always terrifying. It’s probably happened 8 or 10 times by now, but invariably I think it’s a whole murder of crows attacking and find out it was one lone bird. I can’t even imagine how Tippi Hedren felt filming that scene in “The Birds” but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had to keep a defibrillator nearby.
It’s still snowing these days so maybe the crows are also off-schedule but they will be coming for me soon. I still wear the hat but I am currently shopping for trekking poles so I least I will have a fighting chance this year. That walking loop is mine and when I divert I can’t get my writer thinking done so watch out for me this year, mother crow.
I’ll be ready for you.
Charon Coin Press was kind enough to include me in their special feature celebrating Women in Horror Month. The full interview, including the revelation of my completely normal and rational fear of piranhas waiting under beds to chew my feet off, can be read here.
I’m thrilled that my story “Maze Walker” will appear in their upcoming anthology “Paying the Ferryman”, due out in April. A sneak peak of the cover can be found here.
Women in Horror Month Feature: Jenner Michaud
Jenner Michaud ushers in our third day of celebrating Women in Horror Month. Michaud will be appearing in the upcoming release of Paying the Ferryman with her story, “Maze Walker”. We sit down with her today to discover more about the author behind the story.
Charon Coin Press: What drew you to the horror genre?
Jenner Michaud: It took me a long time to find my genre but horror definitely feels like home to me. I’ve tried to write everything from comedy to rosy fairy tales but there is always an ominous cloud shadowing my work. Someone once told me “Your story is funny but I had goose bumps the whole time.” Horror is not a conscious choice, it’s simply what comes out.
CCP: Do you have a favorite monster/horror character?
JM: I can identify with the regular Joes and Janes much better than with any monster. I like stories where ordinary people are thrown into extreme situations forcing them to act outside, way outside, of their usual comfort zone. I love Carol in The Walking Dead and how she has changed and embraced the apocalyptic world she is in – I hope I can be like her if zombies ever overtake the world (though I think I would have shot Lizzie much sooner).
CCP: Do you have any advice for other female writers who want to write horror?
JM: Write stories that are itching to come to life, let the characters and stories clawing to get out of you come out without trying to control it too much. To me, horror is a feeling more than anything else, that voice in the back of your head warning you something is off. The more one writes, the easier it becomes to find that feeling of unease where horror lies.
CCP: What do you look for in a good horror story?
JM: Originality. The unexpected. A new twist on an old idea. The speedy zombies in World War Z were terrifying to me because all zombies I had ever heard of had always been slow. That was the one consistent thing I knew about zombies: if you are clever enough, you can outrun them. This completely took me off guard in WWZ and effectively threw that old concept I had taken for granted right out of the window. I loved that.
CCP: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
JM: I’ve always wanted to write and I can’t remember a time when I had any other ambition. But it was a goal for a long time, more than anything concrete as I only started writing seriously a few years ago. When I am at a keyboard and a story is flowing out of me, there is no other feeling like it. My only regret is that I didn’t start writing seriously sooner.
CCP: Who is your favorite horror author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
JM: Stephen King is a lot of people’s favorite horror writer, and with good reason. I admire how he can stretch out moments for several pages. His style is so direct and immediate, it grabs you from the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the book is done. I am currently enjoying Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga’s The Walking Dead series. The Governor’s backstory is so layered and interesting it’s made me appreciate the TV character even more.
CCP: What are your favorite horror films? What book would you love to see on the big screen?
JM: I’m drawn to post-apocalyptic stories that have to do with plagues or viruses, such as movies like 28 days/weeks later. The Mist is a classic and I watch it every time it’s on tv. I love The Walking Dead. As for what horror book could be adapted, I would have said Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain but that came out as a tv series last year so my wish has already come true and I’m looking forward to Season 2.
CCP: What are three “Good to Know” facts about you? Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details.
JM: Piranha is the first horror movie I ever saw and I still can’t let my naked feet hang off the bed for fear that they will be chewed off, like it happened to the guy who let his feet dangle in the water in the movie. My sister even gave me a stuffed piranha (hid it under my bed, actually), its jaws extended and razor-sharp teeth on full display. I know for a fact that my big toe fits perfectly between its jaws.
I have a vast number of notebooks with clippings and notes about story ideas, characters, dialogue, etc. I have new ideas every day so I never even have the need or time to dig back for inspiration. As a result, I’m not sure what will ever become of all the ideas in those boxes of materials, or if they would even make sense if I read them today.
I am a huge Metallica fan. I was the Canadian Editor of a fanzine for many years.
CCP: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
JM: I have an endless supply of story ideas but I will never have enough time to explore them all. I have to write the story that is clawing to get out at that time so perhaps that’s why I have difficulty writing on spec, or following specific prompts. I wish it weren’t so mentally restrictive for me but those tend to be the only times I suffer from writers’ block. If I don’t try to control my creative instincts too much, it is much easier, and a lot more fun.
Jenner Michaud’s Bio
Jenner Michaud is a speculative fiction writer with a leaning towards the dark recesses found at the edge of reality. She finds pleasure in weaving stories that push the boundaries of the possible, even if they go bump in the night and keep her up.
Jenner works in the field of innovation research and education, and spends most of her free time exploring innovation in the field of writing.
An all-around Canadian, Jenner was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, spent most of her childhood in Quebec, and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario.
“All of a Heap” appears in Plague: Aftermath, now available on Amazon. “Maze Walker” will appear in Charon Coin Press’s Paying the Ferryman anthology, due out in Spring 2015.
Follow Jenner on Twitter (@JennerMichaud), learn more about her by visiting her blog (jennermichaud.wordpress.com), and check out her page on her writers’ group website, The Scrawling Narwhals (scrawlingnarwhals.weebly.com).
Great news first: My short story “Maze Walker” will appear in an upcoming anthology, due out in March 2015. I have done two interviews in the past few weeks, one in anticipation of the anthology, and one in conjunction with February’s celebration of Women in Horror. I hope to be able to share more in the coming weeks.
Other than for the above, writing projects were paused last Fall when I began battling a nasty sinus bug but I am happy to report treatments have recently kicked in and I am feeling much better. In January, I had a Popeye-style burst of energy, leading me to write an entire short story from scratch in five hours, averaging a thousand words per hour (my usual speed when I’m in “the zone”).
The energy burst didn’t last, but after a few months of little scribbling, it felt good to finally write something that seems solid. I have since spent some time editing it and submitted it for critique to my local writing group, The Scrawling Narwhals. I’ve already made a few notes of what I think need to be addressed in the re-write but we shall see what the feedback is like next week on “Boomerang”. Maybe I just imagined the story being good, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise after the past few months of brain freeze.
One of my standing writing objectives is to make at least two submissions each month. Despite the bug, I still managed to do that up to the end of December but I haven’t yet submitted anything in 2015. I have just heard back about the lone outstanding sub (rejection) so I am making a push to be able to meet my two sub minimum this month, and hopefully at least one more to make up for the January zilch count.
First up is “Arctic Marauder” (formerly “Frozen in Time”), the story of an Arctic Expedition finding a lost WWII soldier who has survived alone some seventy years at the bottom of an icy crevasse. A hint: the plane’s mysterious cargo may have something to do with his survival. Next, I will work on “The Beaten Path” (Alien chiropractors, who knew?), and “Threader”, a complicated Earth where nothing happens by chance, where lives are controlled by a chosen few forced to live in the Earth’s mantle to hide the reality of how the world really works. Those are the three stories that have been occupying my mind in my recent delirium so I just had to move them up to the top of the pile. I have feedback on all three stories and it’s a matter of using what can help make them great ones. I hope that doesn’t sound easy because it’s not.
Lots of work ahead – happy writing!
The first time I dared post a story online for critique, I received 38 responses. Since it was my first experience, I didn’t know if that level of response was average or not (turns out it’s not – a dozen is usually a lot). The sheer volume of comments and feedback was overwhelming, totaling more than 100 pages all together. I didn’t know what to do with all the feedback, how to process all the various comments, or even how to get started.
I’ve gone through the critiquing process many times since, and I have gotten much better at making sense of feedback and more importantly, using it to edit, revise, and ultimately, improve a story. Not all critiques are equal, and it’s important to keep in mind that all feedback needs to be considered before acting upon it simply because someone else suggested it.
What I have found to be key is to read the feedback repeatedly over several weeks. It begins as a jumble of thoughts but, with every reading, each comment and suggestion separates itself from the rest. What is unusable drops away and is forgotten, and what is left is what really matters, what can make a difference in your story and make it that much better.
Everyone has their own method for making sense of critiques, and the best one is whatever works for you. My process for dealing with online feedback is detailed below, please feel free to use any part of it that helps develop your own process. The time between each step varies for an unlimited number of reasons, depending on the number of critiques received, the length of the story, how bad the first draft is, etc. Because of a submission deadline, I have on occasion gone through all steps in one day but find that it is best to leave time (days, even weeks) between most of them as it helps absorb all of the feedback and make the most of it.
- Read critiques as they come in: Online critiques are usually submitted under a set period of time (one week, for example) so responses will come in over several days. Just read the feedback, take it all in, and let it cogitate until all the critiques for that project have been received. It’s also good form to send a thank you email to anyone who has taken the time to read your story and send feedback;
- Formatting: From my experience, all feedback is shaped by the critiquer. Everyone has their own style, and no two critiques look the same. Simple things like fonts give more importance to comments that may not be as spot on as the poorly scanned handwritten scrawls on another copy. To me, reformatting all the feedback into a single, uniform document creates a baseline where all of it can be studied without favouring one over another simply because it looks better. Reformatting also gives me the opportunity to read the feedback a second and third time, second when copy and pasting into a single document, third when sifting through it to ensure spacing and everything else is uniform. There are always one or two crits that cannot be reformatted (eg scanned copy of handwritten comments) but I don’t spend any more time than necessary on this step. It’s simply a means to an end. I reformat those that can be copied and pasted into a fresh document, and leave the others as is;
- Mark it up (feedback doc): This is where the real action begins. On a printed copy of the reformatted feedback, I mark the left margin (with a pen) with simple equation signs as I go through the feedback (4th read): specific sections in my story viewed as good (+) or bad (-). I cross off anything that I know for certain cannot be used, either because it isn’t relevant or is contradictory to what I’m trying to achieve. There are always some I don’t know what to make of so I leave those alone for now. On every following read through, I mark or cross off unaddressed comments as I make decisions on them;
- Edit-round one: blind mark-up of the master: I call it a blind edit because I don’t refer to any notes. I set the feedback document aside, and read through a printed clean copy of my story (“master”), noting from memory anything that jumps out in relation to the comments received. I have found that I can address or cover the majority of the feedback through this step. I don’t rewrite yet, I just note what needs to be changed and why (eg POV shift, unclear or repetitive section, contradictory, etc.);
- Edit-round two: all-in mark-up of the master: I retrieve the feedback doc and sift through all the critiques in turn, making anything I missed on the master copy of the story (reading #5) and refer to the original critiques when needed. By this step, many of the comments marked in Step 3 have already been integrated or crossed off. By now, I know where the story needs to go, and what I want it to be in the end. This step is about addressing what I missed during Step 4. For major issues (eg section needing to be entirely rewritten), I note it in the margin to address when I return to the electronic copy. The goal of this step is for all of the retained comments from the feedback doc to have been transferred to the master copy;
- Edit-round three: macro edit (electronic-blind): Back at the computer, I sift through the story again from the start, trying to refer to the marked master copy only when absolutely necessary, instead trying to edit by feel and memory. I know the feedback by now, and I have planned out fairly clearly what needs to be changed. Doing it blind makes it a more organic edit. Even though I call it a macro edit, this is the stage where the most significant rewriting of the story takes place;
- Edit-round four: micro edit (electronic-all in): I go through the story again from the start, still editing and rewriting but this time following along with the marked copy and comparing it to the sometimes vastly different latest draft, incorporating and making use of anything previously missed that is still relevant. Because the drafts of the story are by now so different, many of the comments are now irrelevant (eg structure of a sentence that no longer exists). There are always one or two details that have slipped by the previous step and this fine-tunes the document further;
- Re-read the feedback doc one final time: Set the latest draft aside and re-read the feedback doc. By the end of this final read, anything previously left unmarked should have been either used or discarded. Though it often happens that all has already been covered, it has happened on a few occasions that suggestions left unmarked (or even crossed off) made total sense at this stage. When that happens, I return to the latest draft and incorporate or make use of anything that will help fine-tune a story;
- Final revision: I always try to set aside a story for a few days before tackling the final revision. The feedback is still bouncing in my head and sometimes something I previously dismissed suddenly makes sense and needs to be incorporated even though I thought the story was done. By this stage, it’s unclear how many times exactly I have read the critiques as the feedback has been copied several times and integrated into the various versions. It’s all part of the project, and it’s not necessarily clear what was used exactly as comments from several people on the same issue blend together, and to make it my own I always try to add a twist to it when integrating it into the story. The point is, it’s been used to improve the story and hopefully make it the best version of itself it can be;
- Research markets & submit: What’s the point of doing all this if the story is not submitted? The right market is not always readily available but this Step is a vital part of the process. It’s also great fun to report back to the critiquers to let them know a story they provided feedback on has been published.
Based on genre, there are various online critiques sites available. I am a member of critters.org, which has a substantive forum for speculative fiction.
I look forward to getting your feedback on these steps and how they have helped you develop your own process for dealing with critiques received.